Opinion

A Paean To Freedom In Poland

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

John Linder Former Congressman

President Trump’s speech in Warsaw was a remarkable paean to freedom. In words proud and strong he celebrated the human spirit. He quoted Polish martyr, Bishop Michael Kozal:  “More horrifying than a defeat of arms is a collapse of the human spirit.”

In that same city 38 years before him Pope John Paul II, the most potent moral force of the 20thCentury, celebrated a mass for the Polish people. One million people gathered to pray. One million strong they shouted, “We want God.”

Just as freedom cannot survive without faith, communism cannot survive when faith exists. One year later, in their pews and on their knees, the Poles prayed silently to to their communist oppressors. In a single voice they said, “You may take our state. You may take our freedom. You may not take our God.”

From those humble pews they rose and took to the streets in the shipyard of Gdansk and Solidarity was born.

My wife, Lynne, and I were in Paris on that August day in 1980. We were scheduled to fly to London, but all flights had been cancelled due to the disruption in Gdansk. The trains were packed and the best we could do was catch a train to Oostende, Belgium and then a ferry to Folkestone, England.

It was well after midnight. People on the boat were leaning against walls and sitting on the floors. The excitement was tempered by anxiety. Something big was happening in Europe. No one knew quite what it portended, but there was electricity in the air.

In Folkestone we rented a car to begin a weeklong drive through England. A few nights later, in a very small and very old hotel in Hereford, we dressed for dinner. (Yes. We did that then.) There was only one customer in the dining room. A short rotund little man sat at the end of the bar chatting with the bartender. I had just been watching cricket on television while dressing and had no clue as to the rules of the game. He was a huge cricket fan and patiently explained the rules to Lynne and me.

He may have been stretching the story out a bit because I was buying his drinks. After he had consumed three drinks I was more confused than when he started and changed the subject to what was happening in Poland. He got very pensive. “It is,” he said ponderously, “the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.” I thought that a bit much, but nine years and three months later the Soviet Union was no more.

The Poles are leading again today. They hold their values dear and believe they’re worth protecting at their borders. President Trump addressed those borders: “For two centuries, Poland suffered constant and brutal attacks. But while Poland could be invaded and occupied, and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history or from your hearts. In those dark days, you have lost your land but you never lost your pride.”

The borders are back and Poland refuses to yield to the pressure of the Eurozone to obfuscate them. They refuse to allow the invasion of foreigners. In the past 3½ years there have been 28 events of terror from Belgium to France, England, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the United States.  There have been none in Poland.

It is the natural course of events for humans to choose to bring “fairness and equality” to the forests by cutting down the taller trees so that they will have no advantage to the sun over the rest. Similarly, the nations of the Eurozone would have Poland lower itself by opening its borders to share equally in the carnage from terrorism. Will Poland succumb? Will they have the will to maintain their borders and their values?

The president made it clear in Warsaw that our challenge is not of weaponry or strategy or might. It is a challenge of the will.

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

In Warsaw President Trump urged Poland to lead the way for free nations across the globe once again. Let us welcome strangers to our shores, but let us welcome only those who want to share our values as well as our largesse.

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